Means testing for family income (MOH)

I hope MOH will review its means-testing process to ensure that it does not burden patients or their family members, so that patients receive all the subsidies that they are eligible for. To reduce the hassle for patients, can means-testing be conducted without the need for the patient or his family to submit their income documentation? The process should be automated so that the patient and his family only need to give their consent for the hospital to access their income records with CPF Board or IRAS. This is much more convenient for the patient, and it better preserves their confidentiality.

This was my speech at the Ministry of Health Committee of Supply debate in Parliament on 12 March 2013.

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Currently, all hospitals and nursing homes conduct means-testing to determine a patient’s eligibility for government subsidies. Patients have to submit documentation to prove their income and that of their family members. These include up to three months’ of payslips, CPF contribution statements or income tax returns.

Obtaining salary documentation is onerous for some patients, including those who are not IT-literate, who do not have a SingPass to retrieve their CPF statements, or are odd job workers who are not issued payslips. Some need to contact their employers to request for letters to prove their income. Others may have difficulty obtaining the documentation from family members, who may not want to reveal their income or may be estranged from the patient.

All these present administrative and emotional burdens to patients, at a time when they are already saddled with worry and pain from their illnesses. As a result, many of them do not complete their applications and lose out on receiving subsidies that could ease the cost of their treatment.

I hope MOH will review its means-testing process to ensure that it does not burden patients or their family members, so that patients receive all the subsidies that they are eligible for.

To reduce the hassle for patients, can means-testing be conducted without the need for the patient or his family to submit their income documentation? The process should be automated so that the patient and his family only need to give their consent for the hospital to access their income records with CPF Board or IRAS. This is much more convenient for the patient, and it better preserves their confidentiality.

I note that this is already being done for CHAS (Community Health Assist Scheme) applications. Can the same be done for all hospital and nursing home means-testing?

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.